Russian-American lobbyist joined meeting
The former Soviet military officer confirmed his involvement
WASHINGTON» A prominent RussianAmerican lobbyist and former Soviet military officer attended a meeting with President Donald Trump’s son, son-in-law and campaign chairman last year, the lobbyist said Friday, adding a new wrinkle to the Trump team’s evolving explanations about the June 2016 session.
Rinat Akhmetshin confirmed his involvement to The Associated Press. He had not been previously identified as a participant in the meeting at Trump Tower in New York.
The meeting has heightened questions about whether Trump’s associates coordinated with Russia to meddle in the presidential election — to help him and thwart Hillary Clinton — and whether they’ve been forthcoming about their foreign contacts. Federal and congressional investigators are probing possible connections between the campaign and Moscow.
Akhmetshin has been reported to have ties to Russian intelligence agencies, a characterization he dismisses as a “smear campaign.” He’s a well-known Washington presence, lobbying for Russian interests trying to undermine the allegations of a lawyer who died in a Russian prison and is the namesake of a U.S. sanctions law.
Akhmetshin said he served in the Soviet military in a unit that was part of counterintelligence but he was never trained as a spy.
In emails posted by Donald Trump Jr. earlier this week, a music publicist said he arranged the meeting because a Russian lawyer wanted to pass on negative information about Clinton. The go-between stated that the discussion was part of a Russian government effort to help Trump.
While Trump Jr. has confirmed that Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya was in the meeting, he has not disclosed Akhmetshin’s presence. The president’s son has discounted the meeting, saying he did not receive the information he was promised.
Akhmetshin said he accompanied Veselnitskaya to Trump Tower. She brought a plastic folder with printed-out documents that detailed what she believed was the flow of illicit funds to the Democrats, Akhmetshin said. Veselnitskaya presented the contents of the documents to the Trump associates and suggested that making the information public could help the campaign, he said.
Trump Jr. asked the attorney if she had evidence to support her claims, including whether she could demonstrate the flow of the money. But Veselnitskaya said the campaign would need to research the issue more. After that, Trump Jr. lost interest, Akhmetshin said. He does not know if Veselnitskaya’s documents were provided by the Russian government. He thinks she left the material, but was unsure if she handed the documents to anyone or left them behind.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and current White House senior adviser, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended the meeting.